So you are ready to buy a go kart. Great but there are so many selections and so many things to consider that you really don’t know where to start. There are new and used karts, karts for adults, karts for kids, peddle karts, gas karts, electric karts, street karts, dirt karts, kit karts, and even racing ones. Don’t worry I will help break some of this stuff down for you to make your buying decision easier.
If you are completely new to the process, I would suggest buying a new kart because there are many things to look at when buying a used one. I will discuss things to look at when you are buying a used one a little later on this page. So the first part is focused mainly on purchasing a new one instead of a used one.
The next questions you should ask yourself is it for a kid, adult, or even a family. That is right some of them have multiple seats and are built for family entertainment. When looking at one for kids you really want to make sure that you take the age of the child into consideration. We will try to organize this from youngest to oldest age appropriate go karts as we go to make things a little easier.
If you are new to karting think of this like a go kart with peddles. They are made for young children to teach them to steer and control a small vehicle. These are like 4 wheeled bicycles that are low to the ground. These are very light and easy to move around. They can come in single gear or multiple gear versions. The single gear versions can reach a top speed of about 5mph. The multiple gear versions can go much faster. This does not preclude the need for proper head protection. But in most cases a simple bicycle helmet is plenty of head protection for this style of vehicle. They can come for use on pavement and on dirt, but really are not made for rough or uneven surfaces.
Most of these are made for children and have a top speed of 10-15 mph. I said most. Some of these can go just as fast as a gas powered one (120 mph), but more on gas power later. These are much lower to the ground than the pedal version. They are a little heavier than peddle carts but still very light. The acceleration is incredible with these and a single charge can last up to 40 minutes. The downside is it does take a while to recharge them again. Sometimes it can take up to 12 hours. So while they are great for a ride, you need to be mindful of the time. Also the kid’s versions are definitely made for kids and not adults.
Seatbelts should definitely be worn in these as well as better head protection for the faster karts. Some of the kids karts you can still use a high quality bicycle helmet, but I always error on the side of caution myself. Not to mention if you teach your kids to wear a proper helmet they will be comfortable always wearing one when they move up to more powerful karts.
These are made mostly for pavement and dirt, but again the surfaces need to be fairly even. The dirt versions have knobby tires where the street versions have smoother tires. This does not mean you cant drive a dirt version on the street. Just keep safety in mind.
Gas Powered Karts
These are made for all ages but typically children should be 7 years old to properly drive these vehicles. Sometime, even with adjustable seats, you should use padding in the seat to make sure that the kids are secured properly. I know it doesn’t sound safe but it actually is and is acceptable even in competitions. Gas powered carts are typically much faster than electric ones. They are also much heavier and can be harder to move around. There is also a lot more maintenance required on these than other versions mentioned.
Gas powered carts come in all shapes and sizes. They can even have multiple seats in them. They should not be confused with buggies though. Buggies are bigger, heavier, and have much larger engines than a kart does. Seat belts and helmets are a must in these powerful vehicles! The best thing about them is when you run out of gas in the tank, all you need to do is fill it back up and you are off and running again. You don’t have to wait for it to recharge for hours on end.
Racing Karts vs Fun Karts
Anyone can own either a racing kart or a fun kart. Generally speaking, racing ones are closer to the ground and may have extra fairings to help with wind drag when racing. That does not mean that if you have a racing kart you cant just have fun with it.
Both can be made for street or for dirt. Now that I have said that I should also mention that many of them can be switched back and forth from street to dirt. You change the wheels. Dirt carts are not made to be driven in rough terrain. It just means they are made to be driven on dirt roads. Either way make sure you have the proper accessories to fully enjoy them.
Well if you are mechanically inclined this might be the direction you want to go. A kit is just like it sounds. You get the kart in pieces and you put it together. This could be a cool family project for you and your kids. Not only will you know everything about the vehicle, you will also be able to appreciate it more. You will also be able to easily modify the kart as your passion grows.
When you first start out you might want to save a few bucks and buy a used one. I actually would advise against this as there are many pitfalls that can be costly. That being said I know many people will ignore this advice so I figured I would try to help you as much as I can to ensure you will have fun and not be taken advantage of. So here are some things to check and possible additional expenses
When looking at a used kart make sure the chassis or frame of the vehicle is sound and square. Inspect the tubing for dents, cracks and flattening. If you are buying a used one you should expect some minor scratches on the bottom of the frame. Don’t buy any that has major dents or cracks.
Take a look for obvious welding. You don’t want any repair welding don’t anywhere on the frame with the exception of the seating mounts. This is actually a normal repair made that does not really affect the overall safety or the drivability of the kart, as long as they are done well.
I mentioned flattening of the tubes. Most karts have a tube frame. These are round and what happens over time is it scratches on the ground as it makes turns. This causes the bottom of the tube to flatten out instead of being round. You really want to stay away from kart where the tube on the bottom is flat. It may be close to failure.
Is the frame straight? You can have the frame taken to a shop and have them checked, but it is an added expense. Instead take a tape measure and take a diagonal measurement from one corner to the other if the two measurements are within 1/16 of an inch (about 2 mm). So measure carefully.
Also check that the rear axle is dead center on the frame. This can and will affect performance. It may also indicate that the frame is twisted or bent in some way. The final test is check the tire pressure on all four tires, making sure they are the same. Once that is done make sure you move the kart to a flat surface and check to see if any tire is raised higher than the others.
Again these tests are not perfect but they should help to make sure that you are getting what you pay for.
One of the things that many people bring to your attention is a higher end carburetor. Don’t pay attention to it. Especially if you are new to karting. You probably will not know the difference. Just make sure it is running properly beyond that don’t pay extra for the cart, just because it has the “best carburetor on the market” according to the seller. Just tell them that is nice, but it really doesn’t affect my buying decision as long as it works properly.
You will want to check the bearings of each wheel. This is simple to do. Just spin each wheel and it should move smoothly without any noise. If you hear scraping, scratching or squeaking it is something to keep in mind. Also if they don’t spin freely you want to steer clear. Otherwise soon after you buy it you will have to put more money into it to replace the bearings.
Take a quick look at the exhaust. Is it smooth and clean? Does it have small dents or any big dents in it? The small dents are generally okay but a big dent can actually affect the performance of the kart and should be considered when buying a used kart.
Take a look at the steering wheel and turn the wheel all the way in both directions. Make sure that it turns smoothly. You can take this time to see what kind of play the linkage has in it. While you are there look at the grips of the steering wheel. Are they wearing through? If they are it might indicate the cart has a lot of hours on it and may be an indication of other hidden issues.
Normally when you are buying a used cart the tires are not in great condition. Ask if they have any other tires they can throw in the deal, especially if the tires are worn heavily. Many times they won’t, but sometimes they will and if you buy it they will be happy to give them to you. You never know unless you ask.
Take a look at the overall condition of the kart. I know we have talked about many things and this is an obvious thing, but let me explain. Make sure the kart is clean! I mean they are trying to sell it to you. If they are not going to take the time to clean the kart to sell it, then what else did they not do to the kart? So make sure the kart is clean. Along with this ask to see where the kart is normally stored. If the kart is exactly where it is stored move it and check for oil on the ground. Oil leaks can be a pain and you want to make sure your purchase is in top condition.
I know this seems easy, but many people don’t want to let you test the vehicle. My suggestion is tell them you will pay for the track fees and give it a go. This will give you valuable information about the real condition of the vehicle. If they are not willing to do this, you might just want to move on to another kart.
There are other things to consider when buying a go kart and that would include additional tires for different conditions. We talked about street and dirt tires already, but you might also want to get wet tires. Meaning tires for wet conditions. If you are racing competitively you may have to buy lead to weight the kart to match the race specifications. Of course you should consider any accessories you need like trailer, gas cans and such. Dont worry too much about it, most of these things are not needed unless you are racing competitively.
Well I hope you found this information valuable when choosing your kart. I believe you are better off buying a new kart to a used one, but I understand people have different things they want and expect. I tried to outline what to look for with used vehicles and some basics about the different styles and types. Just make sure you keep age, and safety into consideration when making a purchase. Of course if you are thinking about competitions then that is another level of things all together. Mostly have fun.